After they traded barbs and praise in recent days, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he and President Donald Trump reached an agreement Tuesday on state and federal government working together to double daily testing for the new coronavirus in New York state.
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THE NEW GOAL: 40,000 DAILY TESTS
As New York looks to dramatically ramp up COVID-19 testing — to determine exactly how many people have contracted the virus, and when it can reopen the economy and nonessential services — the two Queens-natives met Tuesday afternoon at the Oval Office to discuss the issues. They were seemingly trying to move past a nasty fight they had last Friday.
While Trump — who has said testing falls under the purview of the states — did not provide details at his daily coronavirus task force meeting in the evening, a few hours later Cuomo said he and the president reached an agreement to increase daily tests from 20,000 to 40,000.
Cuomo said he and Trump agreed the state would manage testing in local labs, and handle contact tracing — identifying coronavirus clusters — when infection rates drop down the line. But the federal government will make sure manufacturers produce more testing kits for New York, he said.
According to the governor, those national manufacturers are the ones that can create a vast number of additional testing kits, but they have struggled with the supply chain to do so quickly. He says they need more raw material, such as swabs, glass vials, and chemical reagents. That’s where federal government can help, Cuomo said.
Cuomo said 40,000 coronavirus tests every day is the maximum the state can do. The governor estimated it will take at least a few weeks before New York can reach that number.
At the same time, Cuomo points out that antibody and diagnostic testing is key for any economic reopening effort. Cuomo said the state and federal government will work to make sure New York can conduct 40,000 diagnostic and antibody tests every day.
The state has said they are needed to get a better sense of the total number of New Yorkers who have contracted the virus, recovered, and therefore unlikely to contract it again.
If an individual tests positive for the antibodies, that doesn't necessarily mean they are immune to COVID-19, the governor admitted Tuesday. It is very likely, but more research needs to be done.
The price tag for the ramped-up testing is unclear at this time. Cuomo described the undertaking as massive.
NO IMMEDIATE INFLUX OF CASH
What did not come out of the governor’s meeting with the president was a commitment for an immediate injection of federal money.
Cuomo has pressed for direct federal support for state and local governments in a new pandemic relief package. New York’s fiscal carnage will likely mean between $10 billion and $15 billion less in revenue.
"The states are in desperate shape,” Cuomo said earlier in the day. “The president seemed very opening and understanding of that.”
At his briefing, Trump said he agreed New York needs more coronavirus aid, but he did not say if he would direct more to the state. Instead, he said a “Phase IV” coronavirus aid package would likely include some form of state and local aid and infrastructure. A $483 billion coronavirus aid package that passed in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday was part of an agreement between Congress and the White House to replenish a small-business payroll fund and provide new money for hospitals and testing.
Elected officials in the state have demanded Congress pump in more stimulus funding for New York, after the state received a small portion in the latest federal package.
Cuomo said he understood that some other states have not been devastated by COVID-19 like New York has been, but he lobbed criticism at the state’s senators.
"The senators from New York should represent New York,” the governor said, criticizing Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for Congress failing to provide enough aid to New York to replace billions in lost revenue.
Meanwhile, Cuomo said Trump did not push him to speed up the timeline for jumpstarting the state’s economy, a move that will likely be a gradual one. New York’s “PAUSE” shutting down nonessential businesses and services was recently extended to May 15.
"He never editorialized on what he thought was a more appropriate timeline,” Cuomo said.
The meeting came amid an at-times awkward dance between Cuomo and Trump.
Cuomo has praised Trump’s handling of aspects of the pandemic, but has also been critical when he believes New York is not getting what it needs. Trump, meanwhile, has vacillated between asserting his authority over the crisis to leaving it up to the states for reopening and testing.
Arguments, Cuomo said, were left at the door.
"This is not about anyone's emotions,” Cuomo said. “I mean, who cares what I feel and he feels? We have a tremendous job to do."
Meanwhile, as hospitalization rates have fallen and fared far better than initial models projected, Cuomo told Trump the hospital ship USNS Comfort could be deployed elsewhere. The president said he asked the governor if the ship could head to Virginia, to which Cuomo consented. It’s not clear when the ship will leave New York City.
The governor said the ship helped 172 people, which he deemed worthwhile. And he stressed New York requested the ship and federal help building more beds in the state because early projections showed New York would more than 100,000 beds for coronavirus patients — over double the state’s capacity.
Cuomo also defended the use of the Javits Center, which has treated about 1,200 people as an overflow hospital bed facility.
SINGLE-DAY DEATH TOLL UNDER 500 FOR SECOND DAY IN A ROW
The push for increased testing comes as New York slowly appears be making progress in tackling the pandemic.
For a second day in a row, fewer than 500 people were confirmed to have died of COVID-19 in New York state. Cuomo said 481 people passed away from the virus between midnight Sunday and midnight Monday.
And the governor said 1,300 new COVID-19 cases were reported at New York state hospitals, a decrease from the day before.
Citywide, as of 6 p.m. Monday, there were 134,874 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an estimated 35,746 hospitalizations, and 14,427 deaths (9,562 confirmed and 4,865 probable).
The borough-by-borough breakdown of confirmed cases, with some fluctuation in the numbers:
- Queens: 41,520 confirmed cases
- Brooklyn: 35,775
- The Bronx: 30,142
- Manhattan: 17,200
- Staten Island: 10,166
New York state has reported, as of midnight Monday, 251,690 confirmed coronavirus cases and a total of 14,828 deaths (the state is not currently including probable coronavirus fatalities in its count).
This story included reporting from Zack Fink and Nick Reisman.
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